Marketing to children can be aggressive when it comes to violent toys and games. But there are still plenty of options that promote prosocial behaviour.

“Today's kids have enough to play with without guns and violent computer games," says Dr. Marilyn Heins, a retired MD and parenting expert.

Research has shown that violent and aggressive behavior is often learned early in life and that exposure to violence on television, movies and video games can have a negative effect on children.

Playing with a toy gun is not going to make your child violent. However, it is up to you to create a balance.

The Super Soaker Question

Super soakers are popular water guns that use pressurized air to shoot water with greater power, range, and accuracy than conventional squirt guns.

“They have the effect of a machine gun,” says Dr. Heins. Although parents cannot control the toys their children’s friends use, she says, “I think it’s okay to not buy one for your kids.”

She points out that the toy is only part of the equation. The intent of the child playing with the toy must be taken into consideration. If a super soaker, water pistol or even a non-violent object is being used to hurt another child, play should be stopped.

Tips on Choosing Toys

What does a violent toy promote?

  • Encourages children to act out aggressive scenarios like hurting and killing.
  • Teaches violence is the best way to settle a dispute.
  • Depicts violence as fun, harmless and "cool."
  • Glamorizes war and combat.
  • Promotes male dominance and female passivity.
  • Provides negative depiction of ethnic groups.
  • Promotes excessive materialism.
  • Fosters aggressive competition.
  • Leads to anti-social behaviour.
  • Condones environmental destruction.

What prosocial behaviours does a non-violent toy promote?

  • Encourages children to build and create rather than to destroy.
  • Stimulates creativity and imaginative play.
  • Promotes cooperation and problem-solving among children.
  • Encourages children to create their own scenarios, rather than re-enact television, movie or video game plots.
  • Are free of racist and sexist stereotypes.
  • Promotes learning of new skills and help children develop their own talents.
  • Are open-ended with no predetermined 'right' or 'wrong'.
  • Challenges children to think for themselves and to use their imagination.

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